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Monday
Nov212011

Indebted

BY ANDREW ALLEN / @AAllenSport

I’ve been meaning to write a proper entry for the Memory Bank ever since I launched the site a month ago. Regrettably, I’ve avoided the responsibility finding myriad ways of busying myself without facing up to the task at hand.

I have a confession to make – despite spending the last three years trying to make a living as a journalist, I find writing very difficult. I’m certainly no natural and the process of getting into a suitably lucid state of mind causes me no end of trauma. A blank page has always intimidated me and I suspect it always will.

As a few of you will probably know, I can just about cope within the strict confines of a 140 character tweet. Indeed, it’s 363 days since I signed up for a personal account on Twitter and while initially being somewhat suspicious of its worth I’m willing to assert that it has completely changed my relationship with the internet and to a certain extent with Arsenal.

This time last year I was the deputy editor at Sport.co.uk, a small independent sports website which was founded in 2008 and spent three years punching above its weight as it tried to consolidate a readership which could justify its existence. Despite having to adhere to less than glamorous methods to attract News Now users, it was a great job. I was not only working with two very good friends, Nigel Brown and Ben Moss, but also had the honour of bringing on board a string of very talented aspiring journalists who’ve since gone on to bigger and better things elsewhere.

That I was afforded the chance to meet and interview some of my childhood sporting heroes was an added bonus. In the course of 18 months Nigel (also a massive Gooner) and I somehow managed to chat with David Seaman, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, Lee Dixon, Paul Merson, Ian Wright and Perry Groves. We even played in a 5-a-side tournament with Nigel Winterburn – an amazing experience I’ll always cherish, even though his defensive cock-up saw us go out in the semi-final.

There were transfer stories as well. Thanks to a contact inside the club and hard work building relationships with agents we were very much on the ball when the likes of Arshavin, Silvestre, Chamakh and Vermaelen signed terms at the club. News of April’s takeover bid by Stan Kroenke also made it to Twitter via Sport.co.uk, six days before Sky News broke their ‘exclusive’.

Alas, as has been the case for many people, the recession took its toll. In February we were forced by senior management to trim our team of two great writers, Sam Rider and Jonny Abrams, before in late May being told that the site had been sold to another company who no longer needed our services. We were gutted, but after three months of expecting the worst it was almost a relief to be put out of our misery.

It was only when we announced the news of Sport.co.uk’s demise on Twitter that we realised that some of our hard work was actually appreciated. I’m not going to suggest people were balling their eyes out in despair, but for the next 24 hours we had nothing but heart-warming messages of encouragement from readers and industry colleagues. From a personal point of view it was the relationships which I’d built with fellow Gooners (most of whom I’d never met) that really came to the fore. Amidst the commiserations and a few tentative approaches about possible work, offers from Andrew Mangan (Arseblog) and Oliver Butler (The Times) stood out like shining beacons and a reason to be hopeful despite the gloomy personal circumstances. I will forever be indebted to both of them.  

Since June I’ve written on an almost daily basis for Arseblog News, while I’ve also completed five Saturday shifts on the sports desk at The Times. Full-time work may have been difficult to come by, but being involved with a terrific burgeoning project and a juggernaut of a newspaper has certainly kept me going.

Twitter interaction also became an increasingly regular part of my daily routine (obviously I had too much free time on my hands) with the travails of Arsene Wenger’s squad an unavoidable topic of discussion. When you’re told you’re losing your job and then watch your club commit to full-on self-destruction not just in a cup final, but in almost every game for the rest of the season your internal narrative starts to echo that of Nick Hornby’s character Paul Ashcroft in the film adaptation of Fever Pitch.

I lost count of the number of times I dwelled on his famous line: Football has meant too much to me, and come to represent too many things. See, after a while, it all gets mixed up in your head, and you can't remember whether life's shit because Arsenal are shit or the other way around.”

What became increasingly apparent was that I wasn’t the only one questioning why I invested so much time in becoming a football fan. If nothing else Twitter is a window on the world and from reading distraught rants online, it appeared that for many Arsenal fans their world was imploding.

People were in so much pain, or in many cases so angry, that they had completely lost track of why it was they supported the club in the first place. Matters were made even more difficult by the way the wider media turned the screw on Arsene Wenger and by the fact our entire society is seemingly geared these days towards the necessity of now.

In those troubled weeks either side of the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, an idea was born – to create a site which would serve as a reference point for supporters to visit during the tough times. A place dedicated to the experience of fans and to charting the emotional rollercoaster that constitutes devotion to a football club.

In my view Arsenal is a cultural entity and a reference point in the daily lives of millions across the globe. If affirmation of such a bold statement is needed I feel it can be found in the wonderfully varied entries which have already been posted in the first month of this site’s existence.

I now have a full-time job and while it doesn’t involve writing about football at least I know I can return home every evening and read the entries you send for the Memory Bank. I feel incredibly privileged that you’ve indulged an Arsenal fan during his time of need and look forward to hearing from many more of you in the future. 


Reader Comments (11)

Superb entry, Andrew. Life as a writer has more downs than ups but to do something so impactful and inspiring is a credit to both you and the values Arsenal seeks to inspire around the world.
Keep up the good work.

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Alexander

Thanks David. I'll do my best!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Allen

"I feel incredibly privileged that you’ve indulged an Arsenal fan during his time of need", I think you have indulged many more with this piece of magic!

I said it to you before, but the arrival of this site was at the perfect time. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the teams fortunes have turned round since the birth of this site and are we or are we not undefeated since its arrival?!?

It has become a very regular place to stop by on my daily trawl of the worldwide web - It is a simply brilliant site.

UTA

Martin

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartin (@fidgitaldesign)

Fine article. Cracking site. Top bloke

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersean

Oh Andy, you amazing man you! I am forever grateful to Twitter for having "met" such a top man as you are. And what a treasure of an idea have you come up with, and there couldn't be a better time for it, too! The above piece proves that you just never disappoint, beautifully said despite the struggle ;) Thank you

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMadRuskiGunner

Fine article. Cracking site. Top bloke

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersean

Great piece. Even better site. I consider it the finest honour of my very limited writing ability that I was asked to do a piece for this incredible site. You get lost in the memories. Congratulations Andrew, a top bloke.

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter@JamieDalton82

ha. Dalton YOU have a limited writing ability??? I must be writingly disabled then

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter@MadRuskiGunner

Tip of the cap to you all. Thanks for your kind words.

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Allen

I love the honesty of this write up from a very grounded writer. Thanks for sharing.

November 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Thank you.

This is such a wonderful site that underlines all the best things about being an Arsenal fan. I love reading all the stories in the Memory bank. They all describe different scenarios, but they also all have a common ingredient - the love we all feel for our club.

I'm not lucky enough to have many passionate Arsenal (or even football) fans around and constantly end up justifying to people why this and that cannot be done on a match day. I'm rather new to Twitter but on there and in here I've found my soulmates, or so to speak. Other people living and breathing football.

November 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter@ElfaBSig
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